The amount of sleep needed each night may depend less on fluffy
pillows than a single genetic mutation, according to research
A team of scientists claim they have identified a gene that
regulates the optimum amount of human sleep each individual needs,
explaining why after six hours of slumber one person may awake
reborn, while another is like the living dead.
The study, published in the journal Science,
identified a mother and daughter pair who needed well below the
eight-and-a-half hours a night that doctors say is a must for
long-term well being.
Blood tests from the easily-rested pair showed a mutation in
their DEC2 gene, which has previously been implicated in the
control of circadian rhythms -- the cycles that regulate the daily
patterns of human behaviour.
Lead scientist Ying Hui Fu, a professor of neurology at the
University of California, said her team then tested their findings
on genetically modified mice and fruit flies.
The animals were observed scampering around in the dark more and
Lu said the observations "could provide an explanation for why
human subjects with the mutation are able to live unaffected by
short amounts of sleep throughout their lives."
But it is still unclear whether the mutation affects sleep
quantity alone or also wakefulness. – (Sapa, August 2009)
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